The best part of self-publishing is that you get creative control over every step of the process — but this is also one of the worst parts. Successful indie authors, what we call authorpreneurs, are much more than just writers. To join their ranks, you will need to wear these four other hats as well:
Hat #1: Agent
In traditional publishing, your book needs to sell to at least three times: to an agent, to an editor, and to readers. Like an agent you need to be sold on a book to be able to sell it to the editor.
Write a query letter to yourself. Ask your friends or writing colleagues to read it without knowing anything else about the book. What is your reaction? What is theirs? This step will tell you if you have a clear elevator pitch. If you don’t, it could mean that you need to edit your pitch.
Next, take a look at the first three chapters of your manuscript. This is about how long it takes an agent to decide whether or not to invest the time to read the whole book. You need something in the first three chapters that grabs your reader.
Finally, examine your full manuscript. For agents, this is the step where they determine whether or not they’ll represent the book. They look for a strong narrative arc, dynamic characters, and a satisfying ending. As an indie author, you should write with this in mind, and then give your polished manuscript to your beta readers and ask them to look for the same details.
Hat #2: CopyEditor/Proof Reader
Once a traditional book is sold, it’s passed off to a copyeditor, someone who will do a line-by-line revision to make sure every word belongs in and enhances your book. You should work with critique partners and writer’s groups to develop this editing eye, and also learn to proofread. A proofread is your final step of the editorial process, andchecks for consistency issues, typos, spelling errors, formatting, etc.
Realistically, even the most talented indie author cannot wear this hat alone. You just won’t be able to catch all of the tiny little errors that a new set of eyes will see. Do a few rounds of edits yourself, and always invest the time and money into finding some excellent copy editors and proofreaders.
Hat #3: Production Editor
At a typical publishing house, the production editor is responsible for putting together the publication schedule, sticking to a budget, and coordinating the efforts of the editors, designers, and marketing professionals.
This is all you. Even if you hire professionals for every other step of the indie author process, you will ultimately be responsible for making sure it all comes together. Keep good records, do your research to find qualified professionals, and keep an eye on everyone’s progress.
Hat #4: Publicist
In traditional publishing, the publicist supposedly helps you plan your book tour, book signings, appearances, etc. Realistically, most new authors don’t get that kind of support from the publisher. At best, you can hope that the marketing team sends your book’s info to libraries and booksellers.
You, as an indie publisher, have SO MUCH MORE FREEDOM in this department. With social media, blogs, websites, Amazon, Goodreads, mailing lists, etc., you actually have more access to your readers than a professional publicist. However, successful marketing is a big time investment. Be sure you have a marketing plan that helps you budget your time as much as you budget your money.
Authorpreneurs, which hats are you wearing right now? Which one is your favorite?